When Pope Francis met Trump, the budget probably did not come up

Pope Francis is seen with U.S. President Donald Trump as the president introduces members of his delegation during a private audience at the Vatican May 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
This article appears in the Trump Abroad feature series. View the full series.

OK, so they met in Vatican City on May 24. They exchanged greetings and gifts. They put on a positive appearance for the world.

But what really went on? Of course, we have no way to know … unless, of course, the Vatican is as "leaky" as the Trump administration, which I doubt. The only other person in the room was the Vatican translator, so we are not likely to get any "witness" information.

But we do know they gave each other gifts. Trump gave Pope Francis a collection of books by Dr. Martin Luther King — quite appropriate — and Pope Francis gave Trump a collection of his own writings, including his landmark encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si'. One can only hope that Trump reads it. He told the pope he would.

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My guess is that they talked about a variety of timely topics: the use of peaceful means to resolve world conflicts, the needs of the poor of the world, and climate change. They may even have broached the topic of refugees, on which they had such strong disagreement over Trump's plan to build a border wall and ban people from certain Muslim-majority nations from coming to the United States. Important topics, but I doubt that they saw "eye-to-eye" on any of them.

One reality, however, loomed in the background. Trump's proposed budget had just been released to the media. It features drastic cuts in programs to help the neediest people in our society — programs like food stamps and Medicaid, and it cuts the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent! So much for the message of Laudato Si'. It also increases funding for the military in substantial ways. I doubt that Trump mentioned these budget plans to Pope Francis.

But public budgets are essentially moral principles expressed in dollars. I can only imagine what Pope Francis would say if he were aware of this budget proposal. 


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